Can SharePoint be leveraged as a Digital Asset Library?

With SharePoint being a content management solution and therefor an effective platform for the delivery of communications  (internally), a lot of my client engagements have heavily involved internal comms or marketing departments. And, one of the feature requests that has popped up on more than one occasion (and just so happens has just done so again) is leveraging SharePoint for digital asset management (video and image libraries). I’ve had many discussions with colleagues as to whether or not SharePoint is a good fit for this requirement. Here are my thoughts;

On-Prem
Unless you are leveraging RBS (Remote Blob storage solutions such as StorSimple / Metalogix StoragePoint / AvePoint Storage Manager then the answer s simple, no, SharePoint is not a good fit for the following reasons;

  • Item limitation (SP2010/SP2013)
    SharePoint’s item limit of 2GB restricts the ability to store large HD or UHD video file formats
  • Expensive storage
    SQL is not cheap to own and not cheap to maintain, Storing large video files in SQL is impractical and expensive.
  • Site Collection size limitations (SP2010/SP2013)
    A 200GB content database may sound adequate when working with standard office documents, but when most of your video files are 1GB+ in size this fills up within minutes.
O365
With the introduction of the O365 Video Portal, yes.
  • Item Limits
    As of today, yes it IS the same (2GB), but this is about to change to a 10GB/item limit see http://success.office.com/en-us/roadmap/#I-24-15675
  • Cheap Storage
  • Site Collection size limits
    As of today 1TB which will increase dramatically going forward (as we have witnessed with SPO over the last few years)
Note in bandwidth starved countries, O365 may not be an option due to the high cost and low availability of bandwidth, so when architecting your digital asset management solution. always keep this constraint in mind.

Workflows: Productivity enhancers or death by Email alerts?

Workflows in SharePoint, we all love them, right? They automate busienss process and increase productivity, right? Well, yes, in most cases this is absolutely true. However what I’m finding is that more and more organisations are embracing 3rd party workflow tools such as Nintex/K2/etc. and using these technologies to a point that they’re becoming counter productive.

The number of email alerts created are making mailbox management an administrative nightmare (which is one of the primary reasons for organisations embracing collaboration tools in the first place).

Not only this but managing by email is dangerously risky.;

  • Staff miss and delete emails and tasks are missed and overrun thier intended due by dates.
  • Emails cause constant disruption to staff

Workflow Task Dashboards

As someone who has embraced Enterprise Social and someone who has personally experienced the postive effect it had in a work environment (inbound emails reduced by over 60% allowing me to focus on day to day tasks). The number of Workflow notifications and task alerts frustrates me to no end. My proposition to all you Solutions Architects, Solutions Consultants , Developers and BAs out there is to avoid workflow email notuifications at ALL costs.

Here are some design considerations when building your workflows and designing the overall solution architecture;

  1. Consider a digital dashboard which aggregates workflow tasks from all site collections in the farm into one location.
  2. Give users the power to subscribe or unsubscribe email notifications should they wish to
  3. The most obvious: use email notifications sparingly

Don’t get me wrong, I am not in any way knocking workflow, or Nintex, or K2, or business process automation for that matter, I just think we need to be smarter in our approach to design to ensure our attempts at increasing productivity don’t negatively imopact business users and their abilities.

Please feel free to comment, I would love to hear your opinions and thoughts.

Cheers

The importance of Analytics

​The last few weeks I’ve been on site with a client architecting search for their 130, 000 seat global intranet.

The client has a GSA implemented (Google Search Appliance) and (fortunately) uses Google Analytics extensively.

The anlytics provded have proven to be a god send! 

For one, Top search terms have assisted in determining what promoted links as well as identifying a few more result sources outside of the content types identified during IA definition. 

The analytics further illustrated trends by region/location and gave us an indication of how staff members tend to search allowing us to tailor SharePoint search (with little configuration) to their needs.

When implementing SharePoint solutions I urge you to implement analytic, not only for use for future upgrades but to continually improve on your service offering, business can use the analytics to continuously fine-tune the live solution. 

To me the industry leader in analytics is Webtrends but I have recently seen Bing analytics​ becoming more popular as well

Over the next few weeks I plan on posting short blogs giving an overview of common search topics such as;

> Authoritative Pages
> Result Sources
> Query Rules

Where possible I’ll provide some sample PowerShell I have used to automate addition of Promoted Links​​​ and Result Sources ​reducing the admin overhead of performing these tasks.

A taxonomy would give Yammer that little bit of Governance organisations are looking for

Social is here and it is here to stay. While there’s no doubt in the immense value social brings to the enterprise, I do have concerns (as do most of my clients) around Governing the beast that is Enterprise Social.

I understand that Yammer encourages informal and unstructured collaboration, and this in itself brings a wealth of benefits to the Enterprise – encouraging transparency, knowledge sharing, communications, etc., etc. But I can’t help feeling a little structure would go a long way, and by structure I mean I’d like to see a bit more structure to the hashtag and topics functionality in particular. If companies were able to leverage structured Term Store-like functionality for topics (AKA a taxonomy), and then perhaps leave hashtags to the discretion of the user much like Enterprise Keywords in SharePoint (AKA a folksonomy) I believe that we can really use Yammer as a more reliable and effective reporting tool while not losing the informal collaboration it offers. Currently, I don’t see it as a reliable tool due to the lack of any structure altogether.

Let’s examine this scenario:

CompanyX want to report on discussions around the office move that is about to take place, and staff members have been discussing for months now on Yammer – sharing ideas, concerns and general project information, however here’s the catch: some staff members have used #OfficeMove, others #NewOffices, while others have used #NewPremises and a number of others. This makes compiling the list of conversations and reviewing the project during close-out an almost impossible task. if CompanyX had a structured set of topics they could have added the term #OfficeMove, and add some synonyms to the term the report would be far easier to compose and more reliable in terms of it’s content.

Now, it is my understanding that SharePoint social already allows organisations to build a Term Store to use for tagging comments, which to me gives it a slight edge over Yammer…..for now at least.

All indications from Microsoft are that Yammer is strategically the way forward and what organisations should be adopting as their Enterprise Social Platform so all I can hope is that the concepts of Taxonomies and Folksonomies be considered and addressed soon to ensure more reliability in reporting and enabling at least a minimal level of governance.

Would love to hear other people’s views and opinions so please add comments!